What is Painter's Pallet Poisoning?
The painter's pallet plant is a tropical plant that can be grown outdoors in warm climates or indoors in cooler areas. This is an attractive plant with glossy heart-shaped leaves and flowers. The flowers come in pink, red, and white. Calcium oxalate crystals are found in the cell structures of hundreds of plant species, including the painter's pallet plant. Oxalic acid is found in these plants as well, which is thought to be a byproduct of metabolism and a defense against insects. These toxins can produce severe pain, followed by swelling from the crystals in the skin and burning blisters caused by the acid. In addition, the inflammation that is triggered by the injuries may become severe enough to cause difficulty swallowing and breathing trouble. In certain tribes, the painter's pallet plant is said to have been used for torture to stop people from being able to talk because of the inflammation of the tongue that it causes.
Plant exposures are some of the most common types of poisonings in dogs, and the painter's pallet plant is one of those that dogs seem to be particularly interested in. Even though the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals that act like tiny spears getting embedded in your dog’s mouth, some dogs will just keep munching on it anyway. This could be from the numbness many seem to feel that precedes the real symptoms. Painful burning is usually the first sign of painter's pallet plant poisoning, which you will probably notice because your dog will yelp or whine and probably paw at the face and mouth, trying to get rid of the crystals that are causing so much discomfort. Although this is a painful situation, it is not usually fatal because most dogs will not eat enough to get a high toxicity. However, it can be dangerous if your pet’s tongue and mouth swell up, so it is important to see a veterinary professional if your dog has eaten part of a painter's pallet plant.
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Symptoms of Painter's Pallet Poisoning in Dogs
If your pet eats part of a painter's pallet plant, you may notice your dog rubbing at the muzzle and whining, or there could be gastrointestinal symptoms as well. The inflammation caused by the crystals can also be a serious side effect to watch out for. Symptoms that are reported most often are:
- Oral numbness and tingling
- Edema (swelling) of the face, lips, tongue, mouth
- Red, watery eyes
- Severe burning of the mouth
- Lip smacking
- Drooling more than usual
- Appetite loss
- Foaming at the mouth
- Inability to swallow (cannot eat or drink)
- Breathing difficulty (choking or gasping for air)
- Irregular heartbeat (rare)
- Seizures (rare)
- Death from suffocation (rare)
The painter's pallet plant’s scientific name is Anthurium scherzeranum from the Araceae family. This plant is also known by many other names, some of which are:
- Flamingo flower
- Flamingo lily
- Flamingo plant
- Oilcloth flower
- Pigtail plant
- Tail flower
Causes of Painter's Pallet Poisoning in Dogs
The toxic properties in the painter's pallet plant are
- Insoluble calcium oxalates have crystals that pierce tissue and cause burning, pain, and swelling
- Proteolytic enzymes triggers histamine release which can cause anaphylaxis (anaphylactic shock)
- Oxalic acids cause blistering, vomiting, and sometimes seizures
Diagnosis of Painter's Pallet Poisoning in Dogs
Bring your pet’s medical history and immunization records and a sample of the plant to the clinic or veterinarian’s office if you can. You could also bring a photo of the plant so the veterinarian will know exactly what kind of toxin your dog is suffering from. Explain why you think your dog ate this plant (if you saw it or maybe saw plant material in your dog’s vomit or stool) and how much you think was eaten. Tell her about the symptoms you have seen and any medications your pet is on, if any.
Next, the veterinarian will need to perform a thorough physical examination that should include age, height, weight, reflexes, temperature, oxygen levels, breath sounds, pulse rate, respirations, coat and skin condition, and blood pressure. To rule out any other conditions, the veterinarian will perform a urinalysis, CBC (complete blood count), liver enzyme panel, and a serum chemical analysis to find the amounts of potassium, bilirubin, protein, albumin, creatinine, phosphorous, and nitrogen. In order to determine if there are any intestinal obstructions or severe inflammation, abdominal radiographs (x-rays) will be done and possibly an ultrasound as well.
Treatment of Painter's Pallet Poisoning in Dogs
Treating painter's pallet poisoning depends on your dog’s condition, symptoms, and test results. The usual protocol for treating most poisonings are evacuation, detoxification, medications, and observation.
The veterinarian will give ipecac or a peroxide solution to get your dog to vomit. This step can be repeated after 20-30 minutes if necessary. After your dog vomits, activated charcoal will be given by mouth to absorb any poisons that are still not digested.
Gastric lavage is usually performed to wash away remaining plant particles or sap. Afterward, intravenous (IV) fluids are provided to flush the kidneys and rehydrate your dog.
The veterinarian may give your dog famotidine to sooth the digestive system, antiemetics to control vomiting, steroids to reduce the swelling and pain.
The veterinarian may suggest a short stay in the clinic for observation if your pet is having serious side effects from eating a large amount of the plant.
Recovery of Painter's Pallet Poisoning in Dogs
Prognosis is good if you were able to obtain treatment right away. Although, if your dog ate a large amount of painter's pallet plant, complications such as kidney damage and intestinal ulcers are possible. Your veterinarian can give you a better idea of what your pet’s prognosis is when you leave the clinic. Continue to watch your pet for any complications and call your veterinarian with any concerns.